Year in Review: Top 15 Movie Moments of 2013

     December 20, 2013

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Forgettable films are a waste of time because they leave us with nothing.  Being completely inoffensive is arguably worse than being terrible because at least terrible movies give us something to talk about.  We may be ragging on it, but at least it’s not something like After Earth, a film where the only thing I remember about it is how forgettable it is.  But to focus on the positive, the best movie moments move us in a positive way.  They provide more than a target for snarky putdowns or jaw-dropping examples of complete incompetence.  The best movie moments can inspire us, shock us, exhilarate us, and bring us absolute joy.

Adam, Dave, and Matt have written about five movie moments that jumped out at them in 2013.  They’re unranked and there could have been far more selections, but these 15 moments are as good as any that came out this year. [Spoilers ahead, obviously]

The Mandarin RevealIron Man 3

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It’s next to impossible to keep a secret in the Internet age.  For every spoilerphobe, there’s a spoilerholic, and the latter wants to know every little thing about a movie before it opens.  So kudos to Marvel for somehow being able to keep a major plot point of Iron Man 3 a shocking revelation.  Yes, it pissed off people who wanted the Mandarin to be played straight, but for those willing to go along with the twist, director and co-writer Shane Black pulled off an amazing feat.  Ben Kingsley got to play two characters, and both of them were delightful.  The twist was also a reminder that Marvel was no longer shackled to the expectations created by the comics.  — MG

Talk Show SegmentThe Act of Killing

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There are plenty of memorable moments from Joshua Oppenheimer’s disturbing and surreal The Act of Killing, but none hurt my head and soul as much as a scene where mass murderer Anwar Congo and several of his fellow killers are sitting in a benign talk show setting.  The audience is filled with members of Pancasila Youth, a paramilitary group that was also involved in the slaying of a million innocent people at the best of the Indonesia government during the late 1960s.  The pretty host of Indonesian Television’s “Special Dialogue” cheerfully asks Congo how he and his cohorts “developed a new, more efficient system for exterminating communists.  It was more humane, less sadistic, and avoided excessive violence…but you also just wiped the out!”  The audience applauds. — MG

Reliving MemoriesAbout Time

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Up until its third act, About Time seems like a fun spin on the rom-com genre.  Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time.  This allows Tim to undo past rejection and get his dream girl, Mary (Rachel McAdams).  It’s a nice bit of wish fulfillment that’s very cute and funny.  But then the story takes an unexpected turn when it focuses more on Tim’s relationship with his dad.  His dad has finally decided to accept death (the ability to keep reliving past moments means they don’t have to die if they don’t want to), he just has one final wish, and it’s to relive an idyllic day when Tim was just a boy. It’s an absolute tearjerker and is perhaps the sweetest father-son moment since “Hey Dad?  You wanna have a catch?” — MG

Let It GoFrozen

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I don’t know if this song is destined to become a Disney classic.  I thought the music from The Princess and the Frog was terrific, but today I can’t remember any of the songs.  What I do know is that this scene felt absolutely triumphant and it makes you cheer for someone whose behavior is still very sad.  Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is celebrating solitude and exile because seclusion and secrecy have become unbearable.  But I forgot all of that during the song because of Menzel’s astounding vocal performance and the gorgeous animation.  Most importantly, it’s a turning point not only in the story, but also a rejection of what the story could have been.  The song could have been predictably resentful and villainous, but “Let It Go” ended up completely redefining the entire movie, and Frozen is all the better for it. — MG

The Octopus StoryShort Term 12

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Brie Larson has been getting plenty of attention for her performance in Short Term 12, and rightly so.  Larson is brilliant as Grace, a young woman dealing with her own past abuse while managing to keep her composure working at facility for at-risk kids.  But an unintended and unfortunate side effect of Larson’s brilliant performance is that it blocks out the excellent supporting performances, particularly from Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Jayden, a young, artistically inclined girl who’s recently placed in the facility.  As Grace and Jayden begin to bond, Jayden tells Grace a “children’s story she wrote” about an octopus and a shark.  The subtext of the story reveals Jayden’s abuse, and the way writer-director Destin Cretton chose to convey this revelation is both brilliant and heartrending.  — MG

The World’s Longest Runway – Fast & Furious 6

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For a movie that features vehicles birthing other vehicles, characters returning from the dead and a laughably ignorance of the law of physics, it’s crazy to think that something like the length of a runway would stand out as the most outlandish.  There’s a great breakdown of the climactic scene over at Empire that clocks the runway at about 28 miles long, over three times longer than the world’s longest unpaved runway.  Sure, there’s some overlap in the 13-minute stunt sequence, but the fact remains that that’s one crazy-long runway.  Still enjoyable, as it requires just as much suspension of disbelief as the rest of the action-packed installment. – DT

Jaeger Sword – Pacific Rim

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Speaking of suspension of disbelief, Guillermo del Toro’s summer blockbuster featured giant human-piloted robots battling skyscraper-sized otherworldly monsters, so reality should have been thrown out the window from the get-go.  However, some viewers took issue with the rather late appearance of Gipsy Danger’s awesome sword.  Not the engineering difficulty of powering the mechs, nor the physics of having them battle in heaving seas, but the timing of a weapon’s deployment.  In addition to Gipsy’s rocket-punch and using a cargo ship as a melee weapon, the timely use of the massive chain sword was another top moment of 2013. – DT

Cameos – This Is the End

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This one clearly comes with a spoiler warning, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you might want to skip on down.  While one of the strengths of this outrageous comedy was the sheer number of Hollywood A-listers, a lot of those scenes were revealed in the marketing material (ie Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Aziz Ansari).  However, two cameos that completely blindsided audiences managed to elevate the absurdity to a whole new level.  When Danny McBride’s character shows up in the third act with a masked gimp, the laughter in the theater reached a fever pitch when he was revealed to be none other than Channing Tatum.  (It’s maybe a minute or two on screen, but it’s my favorite Tatum movie of 2013.)  As if that cameo wasn’t enough, an even bigger surprise awaited audiences in Heaven, where The Backstreet Boys serenade those lucky enough to end up there.  How they ever managed to keep these cameos a secret, I’ll never know, but I’m sure glad they did! – DT

Top 15 Movie Moments of 2013

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The Ax – You’re Next

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You might have missed seeing this indie in theaters, but chances are good you seen some of its marketing, in the form of creepy white-washed animal masks.  The masks played a key visual element in the home invasion thriller, but the best surprises came by way of Sharni Vinson’s survivalist character, Erin.  In an effort to protect herself and take out the assailants, Erin rigs a number of Home Alone-type weapons meant less for laughs than outright maiming.  One particular contraption, an ax suspended above a doorway, gets set up relatively early on but then just waits, and waits, and waits, all the while building the tension until… Man, I’d rather people seek this film out than get the moment spoiled here, so go check out You’re Next to see what happens! – DT

Zod’s Death – Man of Steel

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It would have been hard to avoid the knowledge of this pivotal moment in Man of Steel as the reaction sparked fervor from both supporting and opposing camps.  Superman (Henry Cavill) battles Zod (Michael Shannon) throughout the city, finally subduing him in a vice-grip.  While it looks like Zod has been defeated, he trains his heat vision on an innocent family, forcing Superman to end his life with a snap of Zod’s neck.  While I was squarely in the “pissed off” category when I first saw this, a proponent of Supers’ “No Kill” policy, I’m now in favor of the decision because I think it will pay dividends to the Batman vs. Superman storyline.  Time will tell whether or not Superman’s decision to kill will be handled properly going forward, but it was certainly one of the more polarizing moments of 2013. – DT

Danny McBride’s IntroductionThis Is the End

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Has there been a better character introduction in recent memory?  Though Danny McBride misses out on the initial apocalypse action in the very funny This Is the End, he gets not one but two fantastic intros.  His first introduction, though, is pure McBride, as directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg cue the perfect needledrop to slowly reveal his character’s presence—but even before McBride’s face appears, the swagger with which this unknown person carries himself can only belong to one person. – AC

Opening SceneGravity

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The long lead-up to the release of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was paved with plenty of whispers and rumors—verging on legend—about the nature of the secretive film.  Chief among them was talk of an extended, uninterrupted opening shot, and when audiences finally got a look at Gravity, indeed Cuaron had crafted a 13-minute uncut tracking shot to open the film.  The length is only the tip of the iceberg on this shot’s magnificence, though, as Cuaron lulls the audience into a sense of comfort and awe before sending us a jolt of adrenaline with the initial debris collision.  We’re there, in space, as we feel the intensity of the disaster at hand with the same confusion and terror that Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone is experiencing.  Now that’s filmmaking. – AC 

Hotel Room FightBefore Midnight

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Quite possibly the unlikeliest trilogy in history, it had been nine years since audiences last caught up with Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine when director Richard Linklater released Before Midnight.  As we’re already invested in the relationship of these two from the previous films, the relationship issues that Jesse and Celine work out in Before Midnight are almost hard to watch—it’s a bit like watching Mommy and Daddy fight at the dinner table.  It all comes to a head in the hotel room scene an hour into the film, where Jesse and Celine launch into an extended fight that’s been brewing since the opening car ride.  The performances from Hawke and Delpy in the scene are fantastic, as the two range from passionate to depressed to angry in a matter of minutes.  But as nasty as things get, there’s never a moment when you don’t believe that these two truly love each other. –AC

Bathroom BrawlThe World’s End

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Though there have been plenty of hundred-million dollar blockbusters this year, the bathroom brawl sequence in Edgar Wright’s terrific The World’s End just might be the most impressive action sequence of 2013.  Wright has been crafting great action sequences for a while now, but the visceral and character-centric nature of this particular scene is a thing of beauty.  You feel every punch and head crack, but the key to the scene is that character rules all.  Wright’s long take style flows from actor to actor, and the way each behaves when confronted with the unruly teenage Blanks almost tells the audience more about the characters than any monologue ever could.  It also helps that the sequence is loads of fun. – AC

Solomon Sings “Roll Jordan Roll” 12 Years a Slave

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It’s tough to pick just one memorable moment from 12 Years a Slave.  Director Steve McQueen’s deeply affecting drama is chock full of emotionally charged moments, but one of the most absolutely devastating scenes comes fairly late in the film.  After being kidnapped and forced into slavery, the free Solomon Northup has been living his life as a slave for a few years, but through all this time he’s maintained the tiniest glimmer of hope that this wrong will be righted.  And then, during a funeral for one of his fellow slaves on Edwin Epps’ plantation, the group begins to sing “Roll Jordan Roll”.  We see Solomon standing with the group, stone-faced, as they have now erupted into song, and Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the moment with this look of utter desperation and defeat as we see him relent and start singing along as well.  Solomon is accepting that this is his life now, he is a slave, and it’s utterly gut wrenching. – AC

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